Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 32
A childhood memory calls Dean and Sharon Ellis to action
by Heather Berry | firstname.lastname@example.org
thanks to the grassroots effort which had begun.
"It's a labor of love which has just blossomed," Sharon says. "This year we
had 32 volunteers. We always have a few new volunteers every year and we're
ean Ellis lowers the tailgate. The bed of his truck is packed with
so thankful they see our vision and have joined the effort."
clear bags full of silk long-stemmed yellow roses. "With all of the rain
With 32 helpers, it took only 46 minutes to place the 2,400 roses. That's
we've had, we probably won't need these," Dean says, holding up
what looks like a 5-foot-long dowel rod with a piece
about 52 roses each minute. Some volunteers work in pairs, while others
of heavy-gauge wire duct taped to one end. Dean created the
prefer to work alone. A few touch the stones and whisper a prayer. Others
say the person's name aloud while placing the rose.
tool so volunteers wouldn't have to bend down to poke holes in
The couple covers the majority of the cost for the roses out of their
It's 9 a.m. and the torrential rain from the night before has
own pockets. The rest comes from people who like what they are
doing and say "thank you for remembering."
ended. A small group, comprised of neighbors, friends and new"We don't have a social media presence and we're not an LLC or
comers, has joined Dean and his wife, Sharon, at the Appleton City
anything," says Sharon, noting they cap the cost at 50 cents per
Cemetery for what has become an annual Memorial Day event.
rose. "Every penny given is put toward roses. Sometimes we can
In 2010, Dean and Sharon began anonymously placing 100 roses
use them twice. If they look bad, we won't use them again."
for Memorial Day on headstones in the oldest section of Appleton
Sharon says those who help come for a variety of reasons.
City's cemetery. Today, the couple - along with a dedicated group
of volunteers - place 2,400 roses at the cemetery each year.
One grandfather brings his grandchildren "for quality time," and
to teach them the importance of community service. Another woman helps in
"I remember coming here with my grandparents when I was about 5 years
honor of a gentleman she had taken care of for decades. Another lady places
old," recalls Dean, who now lives in Springﬁeld. "We would pick roses, lilies and
the roses because she wasn't able to decorate the grave of a son buried far
whatever else that was blooming around Memorial Day and go decorate the
away. This way, she remembers him while honoring others.
graves of our family members.
Makayla Pennington joined the effort a few years ago when she learned
"I remember looking around and seeing so many graves without any ﬂowers
about what the group was doing.
and asking Grandmother Rose why they didn't have any," says the 75-year-old.
"Everyone deserves to have someone remember them, even if their family is
"She would say, 'There's probably nobody left to do it.' Seeing them without
gone," says the Appleton City incoming freshman. The 12 year old understands
ﬂowers and hearing her response stuck with me all my life."
all too well what it's like to lose loved ones - her grandfather, mother and
Sharon said one day when they were at the cemetery, Dean shared his fond
father all passed away in recent years. Placing ﬂowers in memory of her family
memories of placing ﬂowers with his grandmother. He then pointed out the
and others each year is a tradition she cherishes.
speciﬁc section of the cemetery with the oldest headstones. "When I saw the
A week after Memorial Day, volunteers come back and help pick up the roslook on his face, I knew we had to do something."
es and pack them away for next year.
"Sarge" Sharon, as one volunteer jokingly calls her, kept the conversations
"Now when Dean looks out and sees all the roses, I know he's no longer sad,"
alive for months until she and Dean landed on a plan and a number: 100.
The couple went to the store and walked out with 100 roses to place in honor
"Hopefully someone will pick up the torch and carry it on down the road
and respect of those who'd passed on long ago.
when we no longer can," Dean adds.
Each year, the number of roses grew by whatever they felt they could purchase. For the ﬁrst three years, the couple placed the Memorial Day roses
You may contact Dean and Sharon at email@example.com or by callalone. But when Dean and Sharon returned in 2012, a friend saw them, forcing
an explanation, and an offer to help.
"Our ultimate goal was to place a rose by every
stone in the oldest sections," says Dean.
Above: Three young boys were among the 32 volunteers who
The graves in the two sections date back to 1870.
placed 2,400 yellow roses in the Appleton City Cemetery for
There are 2,400 headstones, which is about half of
Memorial Day this year. Far left: A boy steps lightly across
the number in the cemetery.
rain-soaked ground to place a rose. Center: Dean and Sharon
From 2012 on, what the couple had quietly begun
Ellis stand by the headstone of his grandparents, Ellzie and Rose
to honor others at the small cemetery spread by word
Smith. A childhood memory of decorating graves with Grandma
of mouth. By 2014, several people joined in as Dean
Rose inspired Dean to start decorating the oldest graves in his
and Sharon now placed 600 yellow roses. The next
hometown of Appleton City. Below: Some stones haven't suryear, the number of roses and volunteers doubled,
vived as well as others, but are remembered just the same.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - July 2018
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - Intro
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - Cover1
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - Cover2
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - Contents
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 4
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 5
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 6
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 7
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 8
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 9
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 10
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 11
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 12
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 13
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 14
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 15
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 16
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 17
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 18
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 19
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 20
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 21
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 22
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 23
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 24
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 25
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 26
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 27
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 28
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 29
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 30
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 31
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 32
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 33
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 34
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 35
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 36
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 37
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 38
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 39
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 40
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 41
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 42
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - Cover3
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - Cover4